Before this impressive DVD hit the market, I was prepared to lament how just about every other live disc to come from top European metal bands is culled entirely from four-song sets from Wacken and other metal festivals – not that this is a bad thing, as those are the bands’ highest-drawing performances, but it’s starting to get predictable. Thankfully, Dimmu Borgir has not only made their headlining world tour the crown jewel of their latest visual offering The Invaluable Darkness, but the also-included Wacken performance is presented on a separate disc in what amounts to a second complete concert. They’re both superb, and there’s tons more material on top of that – over five hours worth. Damn.
Of course, this effort would be all for naught if the material itself had been substandard… and frankly I was worried when word got out that an early pressing of the discs had numerous audio glitches (especially on the Wacken disc, on which you reportedly had to contort the controls like a Cirque du Soleil performer just to get the audio to work). But thanks be to those dark lords of the underworld – and their minions at Nuclear Blast records – for correcting this in the current release: both concerts are presented correctly and are quite gloriously sick-tastic, beautifully filmed and recorded (with 5.1 surround option for both), and as always presented in the band’s heralded epic style.Mostly tied in to the Norwegian black metal superstars’ international hit In Sorte Diaboli – one of their finest albums to date – this 3-disc set, the band’s first video release in over 6 years, is loaded to the breaking point with miscellaneous concert footage, behind-the-scenes tour lunacy, photo galleries, and music videos covering singles from Diaboli as well as the re-recorded release of their seminal album Stormblast (which is a bit more challenging material unless you’ve got some working knowledge of Norwegian, which I sadly do not… but rest assured the internationally acknowledged “horns-up” gesture is all you need to enjoy it). The whole evil package is tied up neatly with some of the creepiest animated menus I’ve seen in a while.The majority of the main disc is taken from Dimmu’s lengthy European tour, with most of the footage used from a single night’s performance at the Sentrum Scene show in the band’s native Oslo. Diaboli songs like “The Serpentine Offering,” “The Sacrilegious Scorn” and “The Chosen Legacy” are predictably front and center, but the band’s full set (something I’d never had the good fortune to hear, as I’ve only seen them perform mini-sets at the aforementioned festivals) covers the entirety of the band’s decade-plus career, from revered classics like “Mourning Palace,” “Sorgens Kammer II” and “Spellbound (by the Devil)” to their so-called “crossover” offerings like “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse,” and my personal fave “Puritania,” one of the most brutal, minimalist assaults in all of metaldom; really, any song that begins with “Countdown to exterminate the human race in four... three… two… one…” gets my immediate attention anyhow.For these shows, their live setup is a satanic wonder to behold: the multi-tiered stage explodes with light and color including a massive projected backing video montage, guest appearances from some leather-clad medieval inquisitors and the occasional flash of pyro. The band performs at their creative peak, executing their complex multi-part songs with the same attention to detail given in the studio versions, but with a greater share of manic energy, fed by the ecstatic crowds in Oslo, London and Berlin.Lead vocalist Shagrath is at his devilish best, and if he may not be as full-bore with the demonic rasp as he used to, this may only be due to the burden of years of touring on his vocal chords – after all, he’s not a young pup anymore – and his energy level is still through the roof. He’s given a strong assist from bassist/co-vocalist Vortex, a mighty Viking type whose operatic “clean” tenor pierces even the mightiest musical thunder. Guitars from Silenoz and Galder are meaty and forceful as always; there’s the usual emphasis on fast, clean mid-range riffage, but they’re more than capable of diving into seriously brown tunings. As always, classically-trained keyboardist Mustis contributes the operatic scope that characterizes the band’s greatest work, and his impressive piano licks are unparalleled. Despite the absence of former Mayhem drummer Hellhammer (who recorded with the band’s on their last two studio albums but had to sit out the tour due to an injury), the demanding rhythms are ably handled by Tony Laureano, who also played with Dimmu at Ozzfest in ‘05.If that weren’t cool enough, the Wacken 2007 show is arguably one of the band’s best recorded performances – and no surprise, since they’ve always been one of that beloved festival’s biggest draws and the massive crowd (Wacken attendance can often exceed 75,000) is almost always totally into them. Totaling 14 songs, this set is nearly as long as that of the headlining concert, with some excellent additions like “Kings of the Carnival Creation,” “IndoctriNation,” “Vredesbyrd” and the early hit “A Succubus in Rapture."The supplements are scattered across both DVDs, with the primary Disc 1 extra coming in the form of nearly an hour's worth of documentary material, which can be accessed either from the concert footage or on its own. Although it’s matted in a kind of annoying decorative window-box instead of presented full-frame, it's filled the usual hilarious band & crew antics… maybe not quite as batshit insane as the footage from the band’s previous DVD World Misanthropy (sadly no alcohol-poisoned roadies screaming “I LOVE SATAN!”), but it does grace us with a truly righteous pair of spike-covered flip-flop sandals (for real) and a road tech explaining in graphic detail how a broken bus toilet forced him to crap in a bag. It’s all worth it because Norwegians make the most hilarious drunks in the modern world, hands down, no contest.The second DVD also features a smaller, more controlled but no less superb min-set of 3 songs taken from a live performance at Norway’s NRK studios, and includes an award presentation to the band (it’s all in Norwegian, but you get the idea – award, plaque, handshake & bob’s yer balls). A lengthier audio version of this performance is presented on an included CD, which sports a dozen tracks in total. Top this whole feast off with a classy booklet insert and you’re cocked, locked and ready to rock.Whether you’re a loyalist to the “true” spirit of Norwegian black metal (some of whom cry that Dimmu has gone too mainstream, but I’m not one of them), just enjoy dark symphonic music with a sardonic edge, or simply love hearing epic anthems about Satan, you really can’t lose by inviting this little horned bundle of joy into your abode. If you haven't had the chance to see them in person, this is about as close as it gets.